Do you have an intimacy comfort zone? Can you describe it? How do you honor it?
For many women survivors of sexual abuse an intimacy comfort zone is confusing at best and for some downright gut wrenching. Many women simple shut down and get through the sexual act. Many of us are triggered by memories and images of abuse the moment intimacy is initiated. Some women shut the door to various levels of intimacy. This can be anything from emotional intimacy to holding hands to love making and anything in between. For some intimacy is the source of constant arguments with their spouse/partner. Sometimes survivors of sexual abuse react by becoming very sexually active and promiscuous, but they are later filled with negative feelings about their sexual activity.
There is no judgement here for how you personally are dealing with intimacy. Today I simply want to suggest that you can safely explore and establish your personal intimacy comfort zone. I would also like you to consider that you can share with your spouse/partner what your intimacy comfort zone is and ask them to respect your comfort zone. Say what??? Yes, yes you really can. But, I am getting ahead of myself. Let’s first examine how to explore and set an intimacy comfort zone.
An Intimacy Comfort Zone is a lot like a boundary. Remember a boundary is something we set for ourselves. It isn’t something we demand someone else does or doesn’t do. Let’s think about this like fencing a yard.
I live in a neighborhood that has covenants. So, I can fence my backyard but not my front yard. When we moved into our just built home 12 years ago it didn’t have a backyard or fence. Moving in we first had to decide if we even wanted to fence the back yard and why. The answer to this question would begin to determine the type of fence, if any, that we wanted. Would it be chain link, wood, or vinyl? What style would it be? Smooth top, hound’s tooth? What color? How high would the fence be? I like my privacy and didn’t want neighbors peering over my fence. I also don’t like maintenance. So, we have a white, vinyl, six-foot fence in our back yard. If I could have fenced the front yard, I would have had a low picket fence simply because I like the way they look.
Think of your intimacy comfort zone as your personal yard, your personal space. This means you are setting your intimacy comfort zone for yourself. It is not to please or displease your spouse or partner. I want you to consider giving yourself permission to do this for yourself.
Lots of people get confused about intimacy and sex. We get told things like “If you loved me you would …” or “Because you won’t … you must not love me or find me attractive.” Or even “It is part of your marital duty.” And on and on it goes.
Here is another way to think about it. Ask yourself would you let a stranger open your handbag, take out your wallet and start using your credit cards. No, you wouldn’t. I want to give you permission to think about your body and how intimate you want to choose to be the same way. You get decide when you open your handbag, take out your credit cards and start spending money. Your body is no different, not even with your spouse or partner. It is your body and you get to decide.
PLEASE NOTE: I am NOT saying march into your partner and say, “Cindy said I can tell you never to touch me again.” No, no that isn’t what I am saying. We will get to the part about how to communicate in a loving way with your spouse.
But first I want you to consider setting aside all the false expectations we have around sex and intimacy. There isn’t a should or shouldn’t here. There is simply you deciding through inquiry what kind of intimacy comfort zone you want for yourself.
Here are some questions to help you decide what will work for your intimacy comfort zone:
- Do you want an intimacy comfort zone? Why or why not?
- What are your thoughts about setting an intimacy comfort zone?
- How does it make you feel when you think those thoughts?
- What will your intimacy comfort zone look like. Be specific. What will you allow in your intimacy comfort zone? Will you kiss, hold hands, be caressed, be touch sexually, where do you want to be touched, where don’t you want to be touched. Who can initiate? What will you specifically do and not do, how often, lights on, lights off, locations, sounds, smells, tastes? Why did you set your intimacy comfort zone this way?
- How can you initiate a loving conversation to explain your intimacy comfort zone to the person you love. Be careful here. Make sure you are coming from love. This is a conversation about you NOT them and what they do or don’t do. You want to fully explain why you are establishing an intimacy comfort zone. You want to take full responsibility here by simply acknowledging that in the past you have been uncomfortable and not sure how to approach this subject. You want to make sure your spouse/partner know they haven’t done anything wrong. Do not blame them in this conversation. Use “I” and “Me” sentences not “You” sentences. (It is hard for me. I am having a hard time. I get triggered when …) You want to ask for their help and support. Practice this conversation and if you need help reach out to me, before having this conversation with your spouse or partner.
- What request will you make of your spouse/partner? (I’d like to leave the lights on when we make love. I’m not really comfortable doing … So, I would like to not do that anymore.)
- What will you choose to do for yourself if your intimacy comfort zone is violated. This is something you do. It isn’t something you demand the other person do or not do.
- What fears are coming up for you as you answer the above questions?
- What are the benefits for you of having an intimacy comfort zone?
- How will you ensure you honor your intimacy comfort zone.
I totally get how difficult examining and setting an intimacy comfort zone can be. I can help you with this. Simply go to www.CindysCalendar.com and schedule a free complimentary session. I am here for you!